Henry Hildabolt was born August 29, 1826, in Heimershausen (near Naumburg and Kassel in Hesse), Germany. Henry was the seventh child (and second son) out of the 8 children of John Hellabold (1789-1834) and his wife Catharine Elizabeth Nelke. The other children of John and Catharine Hellabold were: Catherine Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Magdalena, Ann Catherine, Adam, Maria, and Andrew. John Hellabold made a comfortable living and was active in the Reformed Church.
In May 1834, John Hellabold and his family, including 7-year-old Henry, departed Bremen, Germany, aboard the steamship Isabella, and after 52 days at sea, arrived at the port of New York on July 4, 1834. They traveled west to Cincinnati, where they sold two shotguns to pay the canal fare to Miamisburg. They sold some linen in order to pay a man to take them by wagon from Miamisburg to Sunbury, near Germantown.
Less than two months after the family arrived in Sunbury, Henry’s father John Hellabold became ill and died. This presented the family with great hardship and the need to seek outside employment or apprenticeships. Due to the circumstances, the children received little formal education after arriving in America, although they had attended school in Germany. Consequently, Henry had but a few years of regular schooling, although he continued to attend Sunday school.
At the age of 8, Henry’s mother placed him with another family, so that he could learn a trade, although she visited him often. He first went to live in the home of a blacksmith, but as he was not treated well there, he ran away, back to his mother. Then his mother placed him in the home of John D. Gunckel (of Germantown), where he was treated as a son. Henry was meant to stay with Mr. Gunckel until he reached adulthood, but when he was 14 years old, he convinced Mr. Gunckel to let him learn a trade.
Therefore, Henry went to live and apprentice with a local cabinetmaker named Berryman G. Hawkins. After 5 years of learning the cabinetmaking trade with Mr. Hawkins, Henry set out on his own at the age of 19. He traveled to find work and lived for a year in Goshen, Indiana. Henry soon returned to Germantown, where he was hired by Mr. Hawkins, making cabinets, coffins, and furniture.
Henry became a citizen of the United States at the age of 21, being naturalized on September 28, 1847, at Eaton, Ohio. After acquiring his citizenship, he took great interest in all elections and political issues. He was a Republican and supported the Union during the Civil War. (Although he was disqualified from Civil War service based on his age, he was active in helping to fulfill the draft quotas.)
During the summer of 1858, Mr. Hawkins wished to retire and invited Henry to buy out his furniture-making and undertaking business. Henry agreed, purchasing and taking over the business at the end of August. Henry performed his first duties as an undertaker on August 29, for a child named Pence; the funeral cost $6. His next undertaking call was on August 31 for Mrs. Peter Shaeffer; the total fees for the funeral and coffin were $12.
On November 18, 1849, in Montgomery County, Ohio, Henry married Sarah Barnhart (born July 20, 1828), daughter of John and Christine Barnhart. By 1855, the young couple had saved enough money to purchase a house and lot on the southeast corner of Gunckle and Plum streets in Germantown, where they lived until their deaths.
Henry and Sarah had 8 children:
- John A. Hildabolt (born Dec. 28, 1850; died Dec. 9, 1918);
- Ida Clementine Hildabolt (born Nov. 13, 1855; died May 28, 1931), who married Charles F. Huber (1846-1923);
- Charles W. Hildabolt (born Sept. 23, 1857; died Mar. 25, 1933), who married Emma C. Morningstar (1860-1934);
- Collin Lincoln Hildabolt (born Dec. 3, 1859; died Nov. 12, 1936), who married Harriet Bell Becker (1864-1941);
- Laura O. Hildabolt (born June 10, 1863; died Nov. 3, 1938), who married Frederick Kohnle (1860-1944);
- Orion F. Hildabolt (born about July 1865; died Feb. 28, 1866);
- Annie M. Hildabolt (born June 10, 1867; died Feb. 7, 1947); and
- Chloe Hildabolt (born Aug. 6, 1869; died June 17, 1940).
Although his beginnings were humble, Henry became quite successful and amassed a small fortune. From 1858 through the end of 1883, Henry Hildabolt had buried 1,358 people in Germantown and the surrounding area. He continued to deal in furniture as well.
On January 1, 1884, Henry made his son John a formal partner in the business, thenceforth called H. Hildabolt & Son, with Henry receiving 2/3 of the business’s profits and John receiving 1/3. From 1884 to 1902, H. Hildabolt & Son buried another 1,017 more people, for a total of 2,375 burials during Henry’s 44 years in the undertaking business. Henry did not retire until just a few weeks before his death, at which time the business became J. A. Hildabolt & Brother, operated by brothers John and Collin.
In addition to his dedication to his business, Henry was active member and generous supporter of the St. John’s Reformed Church at Germantown, where he also served as a trustee and Sunday school superintendent for many years. He was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Friendship Lodge No. 21, from 1848 until his death.
Henry Hildabolt died on January 25, 1902, in Germantown, Ohio, and was buried in the Germantown Cemetery. His wife Sarah died July 24, 1910, and was buried beside him.
 The Historical Society of Germantown consistently refers to him as “John Henry Hildabolt.” However, all other records, including the record of his birth (A Sketch of the Life and Death of Henry Hildabolt, p. 7) simply call him “Henry.” Heimershausen is located near the towns of Naumburg and Kassel, in the state of Hesse, Germany.
 The German spelling of the family name was “Hellabold” or “Hoellebold.” All references to Henry’s father use one of these German spellings, while all references to Henry and his family in the United States use the spelling “Hildabolt.”
 Henry Hildabolt’s house, now addressed 104 S. Plum Street, still exists and is a private residence.
Ettel, Dorothy. “Hildabolt” [research notes]. Historical Society of Germantown (Germantown, Ohio). Accessed 4 Aug. 2012.
Hildabolt, Annie. “Centennial History of St. John’s Reformed Church at Germantown, Ohio” (1914). St. John’s Reform Church, Germantown, Ohio, Records, 1843-1914 (MSS 25). Ohio Historical Society (Columbus, Ohio).
“Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1994.” FamilySearch web site. Accessed 26 Aug. 2012, http://www.familysearch.org.
“Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953.” FamilySearch web site. Accessed 16 July 2012, http://www.familysearch.org.
“Pioneer Citizen Passed to His Reward.” Germantown Press, 30 Jan. 1902. In Dorothy Ettel, “Hildabolt” [research notes].
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Germantown, Ohio, 1921. Accessed 6 Aug. 2012, http://dmc.ohiolink.edu/oplinmap.htm.
“Self-Guided Tour of Historic Germantown, Ohio” (brochure). [Germantown, OH]: Historical Society of Germantown, [2012?].
A Sketch of the Life and Death of Henry Hildabolt, with Letters and Papers received by the Family. Dayton, OH: United Brethren Publishing House, 1902.
U.S. Federal Census, 1860-1940, via Ancestry Library Edition.
This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey in August 2012 for the Henry Hildabolt Cabinetmaker & Undertaker Business Records (MS-044) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654.
Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection. For more information about the manuscript collection’s contents, please see the original finding aid available in the Local History Room of the Dayton Metro Library or the OhioLINK EAD Repository entry.
Please contact the Dayton Metro Library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.